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Tornado Safety for Pets

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It’s storm season here in Minnesota, and we want pets to be safe during scary, uncertain weather conditions. Our most important piece of advice is this: Be prepared and have a family emergency plan that includes your pets! That said, here are a few other tips on how pet parents can prepare for a tornado, as well as how to keep your pets safe during a tornado.

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Tornado Prep 

  1. Invest in collars, ID tags, and microchips for your pets in case he/she gets spooked during the storm and runs away. Having ID tags and a microchip increases the chance of reuniting with your pet.
  2. Have an updated photo of your pet. A clear, full-body photo of just your pet is very helpful for “Missing Pet” flyers and social media posts. 
  3. Select a designated safe area for your family and pets to use during a storm. For many, this will be a basement, an interior room with no windows, or underneath a stairwell. In some apartment buildings, mobile home communities, & other multi-family properties, it may be a communal area. Find out in advance if pets are allowed to accompany humans. If your pet is not allowed or is anxious, reactive, or uncomfortable around groups of people, it may be better to relocate to a friend or family member’s single-family home. 
  4. Make sure your safe room is pet-friendly. Remove toxins like rodenticides, insecticides, or paints, and block access to hazards. 
  5. Each pet should have their own leash, carrier, or cage. These should all be easily accessible, and your pet should be accustomed to its enclosure prior to its use.
  6. If you don’t already have one, put together a family emergency plan, as well as a human first aid kit and a pet first aid kit. For those with designated safe shelters within your home or property, place your first aid kits in or near that area. Exotic pets may require extra essentials, like a blanket to put over a bird cage or a warming device for reptiles.
  7. Research local veterinary clinics and animal emergency hospitals. Save numbers and addresses in your phone in case your pet experiences an emergency and needs immediate care after the storm passes. We also recommend practicing the drive to your local animal emergency hospital so you’ll know how to get there during a pet emergency.  

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During a Tornado 

When a tornado watch is active in your area, start prepping. Here’s what you can do before the watch turns into a warning: 

  1. Make sure pets are wearing their collars & ID tags.
  2. If you must travel to your safe shelter, you may not want to wait until a warning is established. Err on the side of safety and if reasonable, transport pets to the designated safe area early. For those with aquariums or terrariums that are too heavy to move, shielding the enclosure with a mattress or placing a sturdy table over it may be helpful.
  3. Collect your pet’s necessities: food, water, collapsible bowls, first aid kit, and medications, as well as comfort items like toys or pet beds. Depending on the pet, you may also need a disposable litter box, litter, poop bags, pup training pads, cage liners, heat sources, hay, etc.
  4. If a storm or tornado develops, remain calm! Remember, pets can sense our feelings. If you can, turn on music or TV to provide background noise and a sense of “normal.” For pets with noise anxiety, pack a Thundershirt, pheromone sprays, and anti-anxiety medication prescribed by your veterinarian.
  5. During the storm, keep pets secure in their carriers or cages. Keep dogs on leashes. Confinement will help keep pets safe if your shelter is damaged. When possible, place crates, carriers, and cages beneath tables or sturdy furniture. 
  6. If you’re short on time, focus on getting family and pets into a basement, a windowless room on the first floor, or other tornado-safe area.
  7. If your pet experiences an emergency during a tornado, contact your family vet or animal emergency hospital. Let them know you’ll be on your way once the storm has passed. If your pet needs immediate care, ask the veterinary team to direct you on how to help your pet with items in your pet first aid kit. As soon as it’s safe, transport your pet to the nearest veterinary center.  

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Missing Pets 

Many pets become anxious and scared from the loud noise of a storm, including tornado sirens. Some pets may even chew through drywall or tear through screens. Again, the best way to keep pets safe during a storm is to keep them comfortable, secure them with leashes, carriers, or cages, and eliminate escape routes. If your pet runs away during an active tornado, you must remain in your shelter until the storm has fully passed before searching for your pet. In the event you are unable to find your pet, here are tips from The Retrievers on how to bring your lost pet home.  

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We hope these tips help you and your family prepare for a tornado and keep all safe. Remember, wait until a storm has fully passed to leave your shelter. After the storm has passed, assign one or two people to assess your home and yard for damage (downed powerlines, fallen trees, damaged gates or fences, broken glass, debris) before letting your pets return to their normal habitats or allowing dogs to go outside. Stay safe this tornado season, and plan as best you can!  

Janine Hagen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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